February 16, 2007

Clock tower plans revised —

Developer changes drive-thru lanes to address traffic concerns


Clock Tower

Image provided by John Scanlon
A new rendering of the proposed clock tower building reflects changes made to drive-thru bank lanes to address potential traffic problems.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — The developer of a new clock tower building on Main Street came to a meeting Thursday night of county Planning Board equipped with revised plans and managed to allay at least some of the board’s traffic concerns.
John Scanlon, who owns the property at the corner of Main and Tompkins streets, where the historic Squires Building burned down last April, presented slightly tweaked plans that preemptively heeded two of the Planning Board’s most significant recommendations regarding drive-thru access for a proposed first floor bank included in the design.
The planning department had been concerned that the previous, three-lane design — with two drive-thru teller lanes and an ATM lane and space for a backup of only three cars on the northwest side of the building— would cause bank customers to back up out of the north side of the property and onto Tompkins Street.
Scanlon’s revised plans call for an additional drive-thru lane, and heed the board’s recommendation of moving the teller window farther along the building to allow space for four cars.
“Basically it should help with the flow into the ATM lane and it will increase the stacking capacity of cars waiting at the bank,” Scanlon said after the meeting. “We were trying to remedy any concerns for traffic and also any safety concerns.”
The board noted that the site plans would need to be reviewed by the state Department of Transportation, but generally it seemed pleased with Scanlon’s revised plans.
“It does seem like it would work better with up to four cars in each lane,” said committee member Val VanGorder.
Committee member Ann Hotchkin noted the downtown location could encourage more pedestrian traffic, and many committee members agreed that Scanlon’s renderings of the buildings were a welcome change from the current vacant lot.
“My inclination is, we really need to have something on this site, and it looks like a handsome building,” said board member Dave Miller.
Ultimately the board opted to remove two of its recommendations for the site plan review, one to move the teller window to allow for additional cars in line and the other that the drive-thru ATM be converted into a walk-up ATM.
That concern was alleviated because Scanlon’s new drawings provided access to the drive-thru ATM from Tompkins Street, said Dan Dineen, director of the Planning Department.
“As far as the queuing of the vehicles, I think he did what he needed to do,” Dineen said after the meeting. “As far as access to the property, that’s a DOT issue.”
Scanlon said he had shown his latest plans to the DOT, and he hoped the agency would support them.
“I anticipate that these changes will bring a favorable response from the DOT,” he said.
Besides the still unnamed bank, Scanlon is hoping to include retail, office and residential spaces in the proposed 7,000-square-foot building, which has yet to be decided if it will be three or four stories
An adjacent building also owned by Scanlon just south of the property on south Main Street would be removed to provide parking spaces for about 15 cars.
The cost of the building is expected to be about $4.6 million, $2 million of which will come from a state Restore-NY Communities Initiative grant received by the city for the project in October.
Scanlon will next be presenting his plans to the city Planning Commission, which meets March 13, he said.
He could not say when he hoped to have the approval process completed, but said that his goal was to start construction sometime this year.
The board’s approval of the site plan was contingent on the following recommendations:
l Approval from the city Department of Public Works for the main street entrance into the building’s parking lot.
l The submittal of a snow storage/removal plan for the parking area.
l A curb cut permit from DOT, including consideration of permitting only a right-hand turn into the drive-thru entrance on Tompkins Street.
l Lighting in the parking area that is not obtrusive to surrounding properties.
l Receiving the approval of the city’s Historic Review Commission.



Inventor’s boyhood home could be demolished

Staff Reporter

Elmer Ambrose Sperry was born in Cincinnatus in 1860, and moved into his boyhood home on Main Street in the city of Cortland while still an infant.
His mother’s sister and brother-in-law lived in the house, said city historian Mary Ann Kane, and when Sperry’s mother died the day after giving birth, he came to the city to be close to his father’s workplace.
“They had Elmer from the time that he was three days old, and he was raised in that house and he didn’t leave that house until he went to Cornell,” Kane said this morning.
At the age of 19, Sperry moved to Chicago and founded his first company to market his own inventions, for which he would eventually earn hundreds of patents.
The city house in which Sperry grew up would be demolished in conjunction with the proposed rebuilt clock tower building on the corner of Main and Tompkins streets.
The light gray vinyl siding on the house, modern windows and four apartment units inside belie the history of the home, and only a plaque on the front of the building — dedicated by the Cortland County Historical Society in 1960 to commemorate what would have been Sperry’s 100th birthday — stands testament to its significance.
It is on the state and national registers of historic places, Kane said, but that doesn’t prohibit it being demolished.
The building had served as a commercial property before it was converted to a two-family home, and it has been both a commercial and residential property since that time.
The building was built as early as 1840, Kane said.
“He, without a doubt, is the most famous individual that was ever born in Cortland County,” with as many patents as Thomas Edison and national renown as an inventor, Kane said.
He also contributed the single largest donation to the Cortland Free Library.
“It really tears me apart to think that’s going to be demolished for parking,” Kane said.
Tim Sandstrom, of East River Road in Homer, said he feels Sperry’s childhood home could serve as a museum to honor its long-passed inventor.
“I went by there this afternoon, I drove by and looked at it, and it looked like that it was some sort of a vision that Cortland could do something with,” Sandstrom said on Thursday. “It seems like a great thing for highlighting what Mr. Sperry did.”
Perhaps the structure could be moved, Sandstrom suggested.
Sperry died in 1930, having accumulated more than 380 patents. His work with gyroscopes, and the invention of gyro-stabilizers for planes and automobiles, as well as a gyro-compass, contributed to maritime and aviation technology in such a way that the Smithsonian Institute honored Sperry with a three-month display of his inventions in 1960.
The owner of both the clock tower site and the adjacent Sperry home, John Scanlon of Cortlandville, said that although he acknowledges the importance of Elmer Sperry, only the site is historic, and not the building itself.
“It’s been changed pretty dramatically from its original appearance, both inside and out, and at this point, without an attempt to rebuild it back to its original structure, I don’t see it being a significant loss when compared to overall improvement with the new clock tower building,” Scanlon said Thursday afternoon.
“The only elements left in the building are pretty much the wooden timbers. The roofline’s not the same; the exterior’s been modified. I would have a completely different point of view if it was a historic structure, but at this point it’s just a historic site.”
Scanlon said he hasn’t heard any feedback regarding the Sperry home, which is located in Cortland’s Historic District.
Historic District Commission Chairperson Linda Kline said the proposal would have to come before the commission, but she was unwilling to offer an opinion before she researched the building, the state guidelines in the matter, and the nature of the state funding that the city has received on behalf of Scanlon.
The rebuilding project is receiving $2 million in state Restore-NY Communities Initiative Program grant funding, which is meant to help demolish dilapidated structures and restore or rebuild historic structures, such as the Squires Building, which was lost to fire in April.


Two salmonella cases found in county

The illnesses were part of a nationwide outbreak traced to tainted peanut butter.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A salmonella outbreak traced to contaminated peanut butter from a single manufacturer has infected almost 300 people nationwide, including two in Cortland County, health officials confirmed this morning.
Jackie Gailor, public health director for the Cortland County Health Department, said one of the two local cases was reported in November 2006. She did not have specific information about the second local case.
Gailor said both people who were contaminated have since recovered.
The outbreak stems from peanut butter manufactured by a ConAgra Foods plant in Sylvester, Ga., and goes as far back as August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.
Gailor said the CDC was studying the outbreak and trying to decipher the cause of the salmonella infection since August 2006 when the first cases were discovered.
Officials of ConAgra could not be reached for comment Thursday or this morning.
The state Health Department’s Web site stated 32 cases of salmonella infection were found in 17 of New York’s 62 counties, including two in Tompkins County and two in Cortland County.
The CDC’s Web site stated the plant in Georgia is the only ConAgra plant that produces peanut butter and the contaminated peanut butter has been in circulation since August of 2006.
On Thursday, area supermarkets complied with a peanut butter recall of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter, which according to the CDC were the cause of the outbreak.
Gailor said the two cases found in the county may be attributed to consumption of the Peter Pan peanut butter.
“We pulled it (from shelves) first thing this morning,” Mona Golub, vice president of public relations and consumer affairs for the Tops supermarket chain, said Thursday. She said all Peter Pan or Great Value brand peanut butter was removed from all 115 of the company’s stores.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including New York, people in 39 states were affected.
According to the CDC’s Web site, 290 persons with salmonella Tennessee, the salmonella type associated with this outbreak, have been reported, with no fatalities.
Salmonella is a bacterial infection, according to the CDC. It is spread by eating or dinking contaminated food or water.
Experts say when manufacturing peanut butter the raw nuts are roasted, killing any germs. The nuts are heated above the salmonella killing temperature of 165 degrees.
Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said after the heating process before the peanut butter is placed in jars is where the most likely contamination took place.
Most people infected develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most persons recover without treatment.
In some persons the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.
Golub said she believes many supermarkets in the Northeastern region sold the tainted peanut butter. The product recall goes as far back as August 2006 and covers product codes beginning with 2111.
She said she is unsure of how many jars of the product her company has sold.
Fred Wilbur, co-manager at the Wal-Mart in Cortlandville, said the product was removed from its shelves and the store is awaiting further instruction on what to do next.
Penn Traffic Spokesman Marc Jampoli said the company’s 106 P&C stores removed the peanut butter.
“We do a thorough search,” Jampoli said. “We check it twice. We don’t want any of our customers getting sick from anything they buy from us.”

—— The Associated Press contributed to this article.



Seward criticizes tax hike, touts bill

Staff Reporter

In a speech to about 25 corporate and community leaders Thursday, state Sen. Jim Seward criticized tax increases proposed in the governor’s budget, touted a bill he helped pass giving tax relief to small businesses and eased concerns that beneficial small business programs would be cut.
Seward (R-Milford) was visiting with the Cortland Business Network, a group of company, school and economic development leaders who meet about once a month to have lunch, talk about their businesses and listen to guest speakers.
Seward also spent his afternoon at a press conference at the Business Development Corp./Industrial Development Agency and meeting with the Cortland Area Child Care Council to hear about their childcare-related concerns.
At the Cortland Business Network luncheon, Seward criticized about $500 million in corporate tax increases that are proposed in Gov. Elliot Spitzer’s budget.
Spitzer refers to the proposed revenue increase as a result of closing corporate loopholes, Seward said. One loophole is that companies and the affiliated companies they conducted business with are not required to file combined corporate tax returns.
Under the proposed budget, they would have to do so, which would produce $215 million annually, according to the state Budget Division.
Seward championed legislation he co-sponsored and that the Senate passed this week that he said would help small businesses in New York.
The legislation, which he called a small business and manufacturing plan, would eliminate the corporate income and franchise tax for manufacturers, regardless of size, providing $550 million in relief.
The plan would also provide a $350 million refundable tax credit to help 386,000 small businesses that employ 20 people or fewer with rising energy costs.
It would also:
l Reduce corporate tax rates from 7.5 to 6.85 percent, which would save businesses $150 million;
l Create a small business STAR program to provide direct rebate checks averaging $700 to small businesses that pay school taxes and employ fewer than 20 people
l Provide $150 million in property tax relief;
l Expand incentives to encourage emerging technology companies that do research and development in New York to also manufacture their products in New York.




Hotel, apartment plans reviewed

Staff Reporter

The Cortland County Planning Board reviewed plans for two significant developments in the city Thursday: a new hotel on Locust Avenue and plans for a total of 40 new large apartments in the city.
The hotel would be a four-story, 74-room Holiday Inn Express built just north of Locust Avenue’s intersection with Clinton Avenue.
The board had few serious issues with the plans, although it did question putting a Holiday Inn Express within a mile of a regular Holiday Inn, located on River Street.
Planning Board Chairman Brian Kenney pointed out that Holiday Inn Express caters to a business-oriented crowd and is short on amenities, aside from an indoor pool.
Otherwise, the board recommended that the property owners — Ithaca-based Lady Jayne Hotels Corp — look at ways to provide an adequate buffer along the northern property line, delineate a snow-storage area, and obtain approvals from a number of local agencies, including the county Health Department, the city Water Department and the city Department of Public Works. The property owners should also prepare a stormwater pollution prevention plan, to be approved by both the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the city.
The board also reviewed plans presented by local developer John Del Vecchio to build a total of 40 apartments, 30 on Greenbush Street, and 10 on West Court Street.
The project at 10 Greenbush St. would involve building a total of six buildings containing 30 apartments, while the project at 19 W. Court St. would see a building currently occupied by office space and three apartments renovated, it’s garage torn down to ultimately house 10 apartments.
Del Vecchio said they would be large units, likely with three or four bedrooms, and approximately 1,200 to 1,500 square feet each.
The board pointed out that emergency access to both sites should be reviewed by the city fire department, and also noted that sidewalks were not included in the drawings.
Del Vecchio said that sidewalks would be included and would run from the apartment buildings, along the driveway and to the road.
Board members also expressed concerns about potential congestion on both sites.
“I hate to see so much density on one piece of property, but I guess there’s not much to do about it,” board member Ann Hotchkin said of the West Court Street site.
Meanwhile Keith Van Gorder pointed out to Del Vecchio that including sidewalks, handicap parking and proper buffers in his drawing for the Greenbush site could make the plans overly crowded.
“It’s a very tight plan, especially once you start adding all those things in there,” Van Gorder said.
Del Vecchio said his plans were preliminary and he was hoping to use the board’s response to determine whether his proposals were feasible.
“I’m just trying to get a feel for what the board’s feeling at this point,” Del Vecchio said.
Both Del Vecchio’s plans and plans for the Holiday Inn Express will likely go before the city Planning Commission March 13, Dineen said. He wasn’t sure of any construction timeline for either project.